Ruined breech plug in CVA hawkens rifle


March 28, 2012, 12:52 PM
I know very little about muzzle loading, I purchased this gun over 10 years ago for $40 and restored the exterior, wood and blueing. I recently started reloading for a trapdoor and kind of got addicted to BP shooting and decided to get out the old CVA .50 muzzle loader and clean it up for shooting. The gun looked to be in bad shape when I purchased it years ago so I thought I should look at the bore and try to really clean it up prior to shooting.

So last night I think I ruined my barrel, I soaked with liquid wrench and put the barrel in a vice then proceeded to unscrew the breech plug, this particular plug screws into the barrel. Well the "hook" broke off:banghead:

So did I ruin my barrel, is it only a wall gun now? I am open to advice if this thing can be fixed.

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March 28, 2012, 01:06 PM
Yes, for practical purposes your barrel may be ruined.
The options are few.
Either the breech plug needs to come out and be replaced, or a tang or hook would need to be added to the back of the barrel so that it could somehow be securely affixed to a stock again.
Another option might be to cut off the back of the barrel and refit the shortened barrel to the stock. But the back of the barrel would need to be rethreaded for another breech plug. And then the wedge pin lug, the rib and the drum would need to be refitted too. That would be a lot of work for an old barrel.
CVA replacement barrels can sometimes be found on eBay, Gunbroker or at one of the outfitters like Deer Creek Products, Waldron, IN, telephone 765-525-6181. They bought all of CVA's remaining side lock parts and may be able to help.

March 28, 2012, 01:29 PM
I have already drilled the plug and will try and use an extractor tonight/tomorrow to remove, if not I think a new barrel or nice wall mounting brackets are in order.

At least it was on $40 but would have been nice to learn to shoot a muzzle loader!

March 28, 2012, 01:37 PM
You should read up on these before you do anything like you attempted. The CVA hawkens have an interlocking breech plug/bolster system. The breech plug is threaded into place, then the hole for the bolster (the thing that the nipple screws into) is drilled and tapped, then the bolster is threaded into place, then the passage from the bolster into the chamber/breech is drilled from the front (down the barrel).

Supposedly this makes for a better ignition/whatever but in practice what it does is cause problems for people who assume it's the standard type of plug that just threads/screws out.


My bolster was improperly drilled and I had inconsistent ignition until I fixed it.

Good luck

March 28, 2012, 01:54 PM
You should read up on these before you do anything like you attempted.

You are correct, I will not make this mistake again.

What I didn't know is that you need to thread the bolster in place and have the breech plug drilled in place as well. This is beyond my skill level so I guess after I get this thing out I will need to have a gun smith install the new plug and bolster. I was suprised how soft the metal was, must have been by design for easier "fitting".

March 28, 2012, 02:49 PM
Two options. Shorten the barrel an inch or two and install a compatible breech plug, or buy one of the many barrels sold on the on-line auctions. Frankly, shortening the barrel is not a big deal, but installing a new breech plug involves some know how as well.

Too many CVA guns have been messed up by well intentioned folks who just didn't know that CVA breech plugs are vastly different.

March 28, 2012, 03:04 PM
You are correct, I will not make this mistake again.

What I didn't know is that you need to thread the bolster in place and have the breech plug drilled in place as well. This is beyond my skill level so I guess after I get this thing out I will need to have a gun smith install the new plug and bolster. I was suprised how soft the metal was, must have been by design for easier "fitting".
What I would do is remove the bolster, remove the breech plug if possible, and replace it with a standard type. Replace the bolster with a standard type, if available.

At least that would be the avenue I'd try first. This may or may not work.

March 28, 2012, 03:11 PM
FYI here's a thread with a pic of how the bolster/breech plug fit together

March 28, 2012, 09:40 PM
OUCH, S40! Hate to say it, but I knew what happened as soon as I read the post title. CVA used to make a big deal out of how strong their breeching system was, and in truth, I have never seen one fail. I have never seen ANY breechplug fail, actually, and have only removed one breechplug in 30 years of BP shooting, so I could help Dad turn a right-hand TC Renegade barrel into a left-hand TC Renegade barrel.

March 28, 2012, 10:05 PM
BTW CVA used to be reputed to install a new breech plug and bolster for about $30 but that was a few years ago... you might try calling them. I don't know if it's the same outfit it used to be.

March 28, 2012, 11:07 PM
Why not just replace the whole barrel with a new custom barrel? All you would do it fit the new barrel to the wood you have.

March 29, 2012, 09:05 AM
I checked new Barrels out from Deer Creek, about $105 which includes a new breech plug and bolster. I did finally get it all appart, in the process I put a small but deep scratch at the base of the barrel so I am leaning toward buying a new barrel. If I hadn't done such a nice job on the stock I would just scrap the gun but it will really look nice with a new freshly blued barrel.

Thank you everyone for your advise, looks like I will have to pay my $105 stupid tax and move on lesson learned.

For anyone else out there thinking you would like to check out your bore or replace the breech plug, DON'T. I did confirm with CVA/Deer Creek that the original design was never intended to be removed if removed a whole new barrel would need to be replace. Deer Creek told me that they do not sell breech plugs or bolster for this barrel configuration.

March 29, 2012, 11:48 AM
Thanks for the follow up/info.

March 29, 2012, 04:15 PM
For $145 with a new barrel, your gun will still have been a good bargain.
Please let us know how it shoots. :)

March 29, 2012, 05:46 PM
well worth a new barrel.

Buzzard II
March 31, 2012, 02:57 PM
Well worth a new barrel. Still into it cheap enough. Some breach plugs are made to be removed, some not. Some of the removeable plugs can only be removed with a hydraulic wrench. A guy I shoot with found that out the hard way! Ask first. Thats why they make breach plug scrapers. Good luck. Bob

June 15, 2012, 08:26 AM
Just a quick update, I received my new barrel from Deer Creek, once I finally ordered it they shipped next day and 1 day later it was sitting on my door step.

The barrel is not finished and actually came a little rougher that I thought it might, I figured I would have to polish prior to bluing but it looks like it came right off the machine, I will have to file a couple of areas before buffing out.

I did fit on my gun and it fit great, very tight and everything lined up. The barrel markings are pretty much none existant, the only marking are ".50 Cal." stamped the 0 in 50 is almost illegible. I will get the finish done in the next couple of weeks and see how she shoots. This isn't suppose to be a show gun just a shooter and hopefully an accurate one.

Foto Joe
June 15, 2012, 11:21 AM
It's not a $105 Stupid Tax, it's an ignorant tax. Ignorance is curable, stupid is not.

Don't feel bad, most of us have paid much higher taxes over the years.

Don't forget to post pics of it after you get her finished up. You're making something a lot more special than just an out of the box gun.

June 20, 2012, 07:40 PM
Cut the breech plug and drum off , drill/tap the barrel for a new plug re drill and tap the drum hole. use anti seize compound on all threads, thread the breech plug bolt and bottom it out then shape it on the barrel, fabricate, fit and weld the tang to the new breech plug . install the drum and nipple, install to the furniture. you might have to cut off some of the under rib if it has one and you will
have to shorten the ram rod so it is not sticking out past the barrel the front and rear sight should be fine in their new location.
you can make a breech plug from a high grade fine thread 4130 or 4150 chromalloy bolt you can pick up at any bolt supply company.
you will also need to reposition the barrel pin tennon or make a new one that you can screw on to the barrel by drilling and taping two holes to hold the tennon in place or you could reposition the pin holes in the stock which would be the easiest way then simply fill in the old holes.

August 16, 2012, 10:49 AM
Another Update, all finished with the gun and barrel. I attempted to take to the range yesterday but could not get the powder ignited so I am back with a few questions.

I loaded 30 grains of FFg Goex Black Powder behind a lube patched Round Ball. I tried 6 caps, 2 were magnum caps and could not get the gun to fire. I was able to pull the ball when I got home.

What am I doing wrong, should I have tapped the rifle after adding powder but before adding raming the RB and powder? After getting the ball out it took some work to remove the powder so it did compress fairly well.

Seperate issue, my gun seemed to have a couple of light strikes. 2 caps took 2 hammer strikes to go off. Can I adjust the hammer spring?

As you can see I don't know much about muzzle loaders!

Acorn Mush
August 16, 2012, 11:20 AM
Stormin.40, sounds like the flash channel might be plugged. Did you try to pass a pipe cleaner through it, or fill the barrel with soapy water and force it out through the flash channel with a tightly-patched ramrod? If you can squirt a good stream out of the channel, and the nipple is clear, there is no reason why it shouldn't fire.

Perhaps there is a restriction of some sort (rust, chunks of powder fouling, insect droppings or whatever) in the channel that prevents the powder from getting close enough to the nipple to allow ignition. If you have an air compressor available try removing the nipple and then blasting some air through the barrel, from the nipple seat forward.

Don't give up. You'll get 'er goin'.:D

August 16, 2012, 12:36 PM
I always pop a couple of caps on an unloaded rifle before every shooting session, holding the muzzle down by the grass or something that will move if the flash passage/bore is clear. If the grass doesn't move, don't load. Did you do this, out of curiosity? When you clean the rifle does soapy water/solvent/whatever come out of the nipple?

My CVA hawken had spotty ignition in the beginning and we eventually traced it to improperly drilled bolster. The passage had not been drilled out completely..

August 16, 2012, 01:08 PM
I did shoot 1 cap prior to loading but did not check the muzzle for flash or forced air. As this was a new barrel I had not yet cleaned with soap and water? I did run a patch down the barrel and was getting residue and metal shavings, I suppose I should have worked the bolster plug a little, I have since run a pipe cleaner through and a couple more caps. The second cap blew a fluff of tissue paper out the end of the barrel which should indicate it is clear?

1KPerDay, how did you fix the bolster problem, did you drill the bolster yourself? This barrel is a deercreek barrel replacement barrel, my orginal barrel also had ignition problems which led me to work the plug out and ruin that barrel, I know better now but am hoping I can get past the ignition issue.

August 16, 2012, 02:42 PM
oil in the barrel = wet powder - no boom -clean with hot soapy water and then make sure the barrel is clean and dry inside

August 16, 2012, 03:39 PM
If it's blowing pressure out the barrel you should be fine IMO, IF the barrel is free from oil/crud. Never assume a new barrel is clean, as you discovered. It definitely would have had oil/preservatives in the flash passage.

I eventually had to replace my bolster with an aftermarket one, helped by this forum. After removing it and having a "shadetree gunsmith" attempt to drill it properly, it snapped off at the barrel after one shot.

Also make sure you're not CRUSHING the powder when you load. Just ram the ball until you feel it firmly contact the powder charge.

August 16, 2012, 04:26 PM
Thanks for the help, hopefully my next trip to the range will be successful.

Any thoughts as to adjusting the strength of the hammer strike?

August 16, 2012, 05:19 PM
Should be able to replace the mainspring if necessary, but the experts/greybeards here will have to help you with that. Locks can be complicated.
IMO 90% of the time cap ignition problems can be traced to poor cap/nipple fit, or mushroomed/worn nipples. They don't take a huge amount of force to ignite.

Foto Joe
August 16, 2012, 07:00 PM
Get yer gun to go boom when the cap goes bang before you do surgery on the lock. What caps are you using?

August 17, 2012, 05:45 AM
Yes, slap the side of the gun to coax the powder into the drum, and also leave the hammer on 1/2 cock during loading & ramming. The air whooshing out through the nipple during ramming should also assist the powder's entry into the flash channel.

August 17, 2012, 08:30 AM
I tried CCI as well as both Magnum and Standard Winchester caps, three different caps in all. The CCI caps are over 10 years old.

The hammer hasn't been worked for over 10 years so maybe a little use will loosen and strengthen the strike, I did spray a little gun oil in the lock thinking that would help.

As far as the nipple being worn I used the new nipple that came with the new barrel, I also have a new CVA nipple that I could try. Another thought is the hammer strikes the nipple but not dead center, I didn't see a way to adjust this at all so I figured it was normal. Does the hammer need to strike dead center?

As you can see I don't know much about muzzleloaders but am really looking forward to shooting this one soon.

Foto Joe
August 17, 2012, 10:56 AM
Keep in mind, what I'm about to say comes from a revolver shooter.

If your caps are not going bang each and every time I would tend to wonder first if they are seated all the way. From my limited experience with a muzzle loading rifle (about 30 shots so far) it's kind of nice not to have to worry about a loose cap getting knocked off by recoil and causing an exciting moment. If they go bang on the second strike I'd blame undersized caps that are being seated by the first strike. If they're not going off at all then I'd blame a weak strike.

As far as "slapping" the butt stock, I've been forgetting half the time and so far I've had a total of one mis-fire. That one was due to having crud in the flash channel and necessitated pulling the nipple and adding a little 4f. I definitely didn't enjoy having my fingers that close to the nipple when screwing it back in but it worked.

August 18, 2012, 11:05 AM
Boy, this sounds so similar to my experience. Bought a CVA rifle right...almost free....and then stored the rifle after I thought a good cleaning. After some years, brought it out of retirement only to be in a mess. Small amount of money here and then something else needed a bit more money. After spending much time and effort..........I bought a brand new CVA rifle. Good shooting, fun, easy to clean. Accurate. Was a good learning process.

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